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Joyner-Kersee, Jackie 1962–

Jackie Joyner-Kersee 1962

Track and field athlete

At a Glance

Making It Out of a Life of Poverty

Athletic Talents Nurtured at UCLA

Silver Medalist at the 1984 Olympic Games

Triumph at the 88 Games

Another Gold in the 92 Heptathlon

Sources

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is the greatest multi-event track and field athlete of all time, announced Randy Harvey in the Los Angeles Times. An Olympian to be reckoned with since 1984, Joyner-Kersee is the first American ever to win a gold medal in the long jump and the first woman in history to earn more than 7,000 points in the grueling seven-event heptathlon. Joyner-Kersee has won three Olympic gold medals, one silver, and one bronze, and she established a world record in the heptathlon in 1986. Her achievements are so astoundingand her personality so engagingthat she has become one of Americas favorite track athletes.

According to Kenny Moore in Sports Illustrated, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, like her name, is a blend. Her years of hard, thoughtful training are the Kersee part, the expression of her husband-coach Bob Kersees hatred of talent lying fallow. The Joyner half is Jackie in competition. She wants to win, but having won, wants to go on. She wants to impress, but having performed gloriously, still wants to go on. The Joyner gift is her open joy in practiced, powerful movement, in improvement for its own sake, and it causes observers to presume, in error, that what she does is without personal cost.

Indeed, Joyner-Kersee has often found herself in competition with only the clock and the yardstick, having left her competitors in the dust. Not satisfied just to win, she struggles for records, for solid recognition that she dominates her sport. She has won championshipsOlympic and otherwisewith hamstring injuries, has broken world records in heat that would stagger a camel, and has managed through it all to maintain a stable relationship with her husband-coach Bob Kersee. As Ken Denlinger put it in the Washington Post, Joyner-Kersee smokes the worlds playgrounds as no other female athlete in history.

Before Joyner-Kersee set her sights on it, the heptathlon was a virtually unknown event in America. It has since become a track and field favorite, especially during the Olympics. For the heptathlon, athletes amass points by running a 200-meter dash, completing both high and long jumps, throwing a javelin and a shot put, running the 100-meter hurdles, and finishing an 800-meter run, all in the space of two days. The seven-event series demands skills in a variety of areas that most athletes choose as specialties.

Joyner-Kersee has been a star in the heptathlon since 1984, when she won a silver medal after losing the 800-meter run

At a Glance

Born Jacqueline Joyner, March 3, 1962, in East St. Louis, IL; daughter of Alfred (a railroad employee) and Mary (a nurses assistant) Joyner; married Bob Kersee (a track and field coach), January 11, 1986. Education: Attended the University of California, Los Angeles, 1980-84.

Track and field athlete, 1973. Has competed in national and international track events since 1980, including the 1984, 1988, and 1992 Olympic Games; the Goodwill Games in Moscow and the Olympic Festival in Houston, both 1986; the Pan American Games in Indianapolis, 1987; and the World Championships in Rome, 1987 and Tokyo, 1991.

Selected awards: Olympic silver medal in heptathlon, 1984; athlete of the year citation from Track & Field News and Jesse Owens Award, both 1986; established world record in heptathlon competition, 1986; Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete, 1986 and 1987; amateur sportswoman of the year award from McDonalds, 1987; Olympic gold medals in heptathlon and long jump, 1988; honorary doctorate from University of Missouri, 1989; Olympic gold medal in heptathlon and bronze medal in long jump, 1992; first woman athlete ever to score more than 7,000 points in a heptathlon competition.

Addresses: Home Box 21053, Long Beach, CA 90801. Office c/o United States Olympic Committee, One Olympic Place, Colorado Springs, CO 80909.

by a fraction of a second. In the 1988 and 1992 Olympics she won a gold in the event. Even more remarkable, she has managed to single out one specialtythe long jumpand win Olympic medals in that event as well. In 1988 she earned a gold medal for a jump, and in 1992 she settled graciously for a bronze. A drug-free athlete sometimes faced with steroid-enhanced competitors, Joyner-Kersee is the first American woman ever to win an Olympic long jump competition.

Making It Out of a Life of Poverty

Born in 1962, Joyner-Kersee grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, a poverty-stricken city on the Mississippi River. Her parents, Alfred and Mary Joyner, were barely in their teens when they got married. Mary was only 14 when her first child, Al, was born and just 16 when she gave birth to Jackie in 1962. Both parents worked hard to provide for their growing family, Alfred in construction and on the railroads and Mary as a nurses aid. The couples salaries were hardly adequate, and the Joyners knew real desperation. Sports Illustrated correspondent Kenny Moore wrote: Their house was little more than wallpaper and sticks, with four tiny bedrooms. During the winters, when the hot-water pipes would freeze, they had to heat water for baths in kettles on the kitchen stove. Their great-grandmother (on their fathers side) lived with them until she died on the plastic-covered sofa in the living room while Jackie was at the store buying milk.

The Joyner familyespecially Jackiewished desperately for better circumstances. A grandmother had named her Jacqueline, after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the wife of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, hoping that the youngster would someday be first lady of something. Joyner-Kersees brother Al, himself an Olympic gold medalist, told Sports Illustrated: I remember Jackie and me crying together in a back room in that house, swearing that someday we were going to make it. Make it out. Make things different.

Their mother encouragedand even bulliedAl and Jackie to improve themselves. Having been a teenaged parent herself, Mary Joyner told the children they could not date until eighteen and spurred their interest in other activities. As a child, Jackie began to study modern dance at the local Mary Brown Community Center. One day she saw a sign advertising the centers new track program. She decided to give it a try.

At first Joyner-Kersee lost every race, but soon she was winning. In 1976 she watched the Summer Olympics on television and later recalled in the Chicago Tribune, I decided I wanted to go. I wanted to be on TV, too. After that she tried harder and became a tremendously versatile athlete at a very tender age. The first competitor she beat regularly was her older brother, Al. The two siblings began to spur one another on to greater and greater achievements, growing very close in the process.

At the age of 14, Joyner-Kersee won the first of four straight national junior pentathlon championships. Track and field events were only part of the weapons in her arsenal, however. In high school she was a state champion in both track and basketball. Her Lincoln High School basketball team won games by an average of 52.8 points during her senior year. Joyner-Kersee also played volleyball and continued to encourage her brother in his sporting career. Her athletic achievements notwithstanding, she was an excellent student who finished in the top ten percent of her graduating class.

Joyner-Kersee was heavily recruited by high-ranking colleges and chose the University of California at Los Angeles. She began school there in 1980 on a basketball scholarship. Tragedy struck in her freshman year when her mother developed a rare form of meningitis and died at the age of 37. Stunned by the sudden and unexpected loss, both Jackie and Al Joyner dedicated themselves to athletics with new resolve.

Athletic Talents Nurtured at UCLA

Having returned to UCLA, Jackie became a starting forward for the Bruins and worked with the track team as a long jumper. She was rather surprised to find herself singled out by an intimidating assistant track coach named Bob Kersee, who detected untapped possibilities in the young collegian. I saw this talent walking around the campus that everyone was blind to, he told Sports Illustrated. No one was listening to her mild requests to do more. So I went to the athletic director and made him a proposition. Kersee literally put his own job on the line, demanding to coach Jackie Joyner in multi-events, or he would quit. The university athletic department agreed to his plan. The coach remarked in Sports Illustrated, By 1982, I could see shed be the world record holder.

Joyner-Kersee was already a powerhouse in the long jump and the 200-meter sprint. She was also a top-scoring forward on the basketball team, so her endurance was excellent. Al Joyner taught her how to run the hurdles and to throw the javelina type of spearand the shot puta heavy palm-sized metal ball. By 1983 Joyner-Kersee qualified for the world track and field championships in Helsinki, Finland. Her first chance to be a world champion ended in disaster, however, when she pulled a hamstring muscle and could not complete the heptathlon. Ironically, her brother Al was also present, and he too was injured. Al Joyner told Sports Illustrated that he consoled his sister by telling her, Its just not our time yet.

Silver Medalist at the 1984 Olympic Games

In 1984 both Jackie and Al Joyner qualified for the U.S. Olympic team. Having recovered from her injuries, Jackie was a favorite to win the heptathlon. Al, on the other hand, was not considered likely to win his event, the triple jump. Confounding all predictions, Jackie won the silver medal in the heptathlon, missing the gold by only. 06 seconds in her final event, the 800-meter run. Meanwhile, Al Joyner became the first American in 80 years to win the Olympic triple jump. The tears Jackie shed at the end of the day were not for her hairs-breadth loss, but rather for joy at her brothers victory. Both of them knew that Jackie would be back to compete another day.

The depths of Joyner-Kersees potential began to be apparent in 1985, when she set a U.S. record with a long jump measuring 23 feet 9 inches. By then she had quit playing basketball and was devoting herself exclusively to track, under the guidance of Bob Kersee. Their relationship became romantic after years spent working together as friends, and they were married on January 11, 1986. When Al Joyner was wed to a sprinter named Florence Griffith, the stage was set for the emergence of a track and field family of champions: Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith Joyner. The two women were among an elite cadre of track stars coached by Bob Kersee in preparation for the 1988 Olympic Games.

Back in 1985 Joyner-Kersee was ranked third in the world heptathlon. She changed that ranking forever at the Goodwill Games in Moscow in 1986. There she set a new world record in the event with 7,148 pointsmore than 200 points higher than her nearest competitor in history. Just three weeks later she broke her own record with a score of 7,161 points in Houston, Texas, where temperatures reached 100 degrees during competition. Her devotion to the heptathlon was recognized by numerous awards, including the 1986 Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete and the coveted Jesse Owens Award.

Triumph at the 88 Games

Joyner-Kersees performance at the 1988 Olympics was nothing short of phenomenal. Not only did she win a gold in the heptathlon, she also took the gold medal in the long jump, flying 24 feet 3.5 inches. Her heptathlon score of 7,291 points was her fourth world record, and it will probably stand for many years to come. Joyner-Kersees achievement in the 1988 Olympics was particularly exciting because multi-event track competitions and the long jump had long been dominated by countries of the former Soviet Bloc, where steroid use among athletes was acceptable. Joyner-Kersee became not only the first American woman to win a gold medal in the Olympic long jump, she also became the first athlete in 64 years to win in a gold in both a multi-event and a single event.

Much attention has been focused over the years on the relationship between Jackie Joyner-Kersee and her coach/husband, Bob. The pair have been spotted quarreling during competition, and Kersee is an exacting man who makes his demands well known. The coach told the Chicago Tribune that he and his wife try not to take their disagreements home with them at night. We want to make it in terms of the coach-athlete relationship, and we want to stay married for the rest of our lives, he said. So weve got rules in terms of our coach-athlete relationship and our husband-wife relationship. He added: Im surprised it works as well as it does, and Im happy it does for both of us. We enjoy sport so much, and we enjoy one another so much, it would be a shame if we let track and field get in the way of our personal life, or our personal life get in the way of track and field.

Another Gold in the 92 Heptathlon

Joyner-Kersee has not been able to break her 1988 Olympic heptathlon record. Since then she has reinjured her hamstring and had moments when she lacked the resolve to continue. The incessant prodding of Kersee has kept her at the top of the world standings, however, and in the 1992 Olympics she sought to become the fourth woman in Olympic history to win four gold medals. Her performance in the heptathlon earned her another gold, but she could only turn in a bronze medal performance in the long jump. The 30-year-old Joyner-Kersee was gracious about her defeat in the long jump, because the winner was her close friend, Heike Drechsler, of Germany. Joyner-Kersee told the Los Angeles Times that she was thrilled for her rival. With other athletes, even though youre fierce competitors, you get a sense of them as people, whether theyre nice, she said. You still want to beat them, but when the competition is over, you realize that theres more to life than athletics.

Los Angeles Times reporter Randy Harvey wrote of Jackie Joyner-Kersee: She is one of the warmest, most even-tempered persons in athletics. The next bad word that anyone who knows her, including her competitors, says about her will be the first. Joyner-Kersee has combined the ability of a natural athlete with the resolve of a fierce competitor. She has passed the age of 30 but still plans to compete in track and field as long as she can. After that, she says, she may try her hand at other sports. (She plays both tennis and golf with relish when her training schedule allows.) But in Parade Magazine, Joyner-Kersee stated that her primary intention is to complete her Olympic career on U.S. soil, adding, I started in 1984 in Los Angeles, and Ill end up in Atlanta [in 1996.]

Sources

Books

The Olympics Factbook: A Spectators Guide to the Winter and Summer Games, Visible Ink Press, 1992.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1988.

Ebony, October 1986; April 1992; October 1992.

Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1988; September 29, 1988; February 17, 1990; June 22, 1992; August 8, 1992.

Parade Magazine, June 13, 1993, p. 14.

Philadelphia Daily News, August 7, 1992.

Sports Illustrated, April 27, 1987; September 14,1987; October 10, 1988.

Washington Post, February 26, 1987; July 17, 1988; September 25, 1988.

Mark Kram

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Kram, Mark. "Joyner-Kersee, Jackie 1962–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1994. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Multitalented athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee (born 1962) was one of the top American track stars of the 1980s and 1990s, winning numerous Olympic medals and setting or tying records in several events.

She was the first American ever to win a gold medal in the long jump and the first woman in history to earn more than 7,000 points in the grueling seven-event heptathlon. She won three Olympic gold medals, one silver, and two bronze, and she established a world record in the heptathlon. Her achievements are so astounding-and her personality so engaging-that she has become one of America's favorite track athletes. According to Kenny Moore in Sports Illustrated, Joyner-Kersee, "like her name, is a blend. Her years of hard, thoughtful training are the Kersee part, the expression of her husband-coach Bob Kersee's hatred of talent lying fallow. The Joyner half is Jackie in competition. She wants to win, but having won, wants to go on. She wants to impress, but having performed gloriously, still wants to go on. The Joyner gift is her open joy in practiced, powerful movement, in improvement for its own sake, and it causes observers to presume, in error, that what she does is without personal cost."

Indeed, Joyner-Kersee has often found herself in competition with only the clock and the yardstick, having left her competitors in the dust. Not satisfied just to win, she struggles for records, for solid recognition that she dominates her sport. She has won championships-Olympic and otherwise-with hamstring injuries, has broken world records in heat that would stagger a camel, and has managed through it all to maintain a stable relationship with her husband-coach Bob Kersee. As Ken Denlinger put it in the Washington Post, Joyner-Kersee "smokes the world's playgrounds as no other female athlete in history."

Before Joyner-Kersee set her sights on it, the heptathlon was a virtually unknown event in America. It has since become a track and field favorite, especially during the Olympics. For the heptathlon, athletes amass points by running a 200-meter dash, completing both high and long jumps, throwing a javelin and a shot put, running the 100-meter hurdles, and finishing an 800-meter run, all in the space of two days. The seven-event series demands skills in a variety of areas that most athletes choose as specialties.

Joyner-Kersee has been a star in the heptathlon since 1984, when she won a silver medal after losing the 800-meter run by a fraction of a second. In the 1988 and 1992 Olympics she won a gold in the event. Even more remarkable, she has managed to single out one specialty-the long jump-and win Olympic medals in that event as well. In 1988, she earned a gold medal for a jump; in both 1992 and 1996 she settled graciously for a bronze. A drug-free athlete sometimes faced with steroid-enhanced competitors, Joyner-Kersee is the first American woman ever to win an Olympic long jump competition.

Aspired to Succeed

Born on March 3, 1962, Joyner-Kersee grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, a poverty-stricken city on the Mississippi River. Her parents, Alfred and Mary Joyner, were barely in their teens when they got married. Mary was only 14 when her first child, Al, was born and just 16 when she gave birth to Jackie, in 1962. Both parents worked hard to provide for their growing family, Alfred in construction and on the railroads and Mary as a nurse's aid. The couple's salaries were hardly adequate, and the Joyners knew real desperation. Moore in Sports Illustrated wrote: "Their house was little more than wallpaper and sticks, with four tiny bedrooms. During the winters, when the hot-water pipes would freeze, they had to heat water for baths in kettles on the kitchen stove. Their great-grandmother (on their father's side) lived with them until she died on the plastic-covered sofa in the living room while Jackie was at the store buying milk."

The Joyner family-especially Jackie-wished desperately for better circumstances. A grandmother had named her "Jacqueline," after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the wife of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, hoping that the youngster would someday be "first lady" of something. Joyner-Kersee's brother Al, himself an Olympic gold medalist, told Sports Illustrated: "I remember Jackie and me crying together in a back room in that house, swearing that someday we were going to make it. Make it out. Make things different." Their mother encouraged Joyner-Kersee and her brother to improve. Having been a teenaged parent herself, Mary Joyner told the children they could not date until the age of 18 and spurred their interest in other activities.

As a child, Joyner-Kersee began to study modern dance at the local community center. One day she saw a sign advertising a new track program and decided to give it a try. At first Joyner-Kersee lost every race, but soon she was winning. In 1976, she watched the Olympics on television and later recalled in the Chicago Tribune, "I decided I wanted to go. I wanted to be on TV, too." After that she tried harder and became a tremendously versatile athlete at a very tender age. The first competitor she beat regularly was her older brother, Al. The two siblings began to spur one another on to greater and greater achievements, growing very close in the process.

At the age of 14, Joyner-Kersee won the first of four straight national junior pentathlon championships. Track and field events were only part of the weapons in her arsenal, however. In high school she was a state champion in both track and basketball. Her Lincoln High School basketball team won games by an average of 52.8 points during her senior year. Joyner-Kersee also played volleyball and continued to encourage her brother in his sporting career. Her athletic achievements notwithstanding, she was an excellent student who finished in the top ten percent of her graduating class.

Took to the Track

Joyner-Kersee was heavily recruited by high-ranking colleges and chose the University of California at Los Angeles. She began school there in 1980 on a basketball scholarship. Tragedy struck in her freshman year when her mother developed a rare form of meningitis and died at the age of 37. Stunned by the sudden and unexpected loss, both Jackie and Al Joyner dedicated themselves to athletics with new resolve. Having returned to UCLA, Joyner-Kersee became a starting forward for the Bruins and worked with the track team as a long jumper. She was rather surprised to find herself singled out by an assistant track coach named Bob Kersee, who detected untapped possibilities in the young collegian. "I saw this talent walking around the campus that everyone was blind to," he told Sports Illustrated. "No one was listening to her mild requests to do more. So I went to the athletic director and made him a proposition."

Kersee literally put his own job on the line, demanding to coach Jackie Joyner in multi-events, or he would quit. The university athletic department agreed to his plan. The coach remarked in Sports Illustrated, "By 1982, I could see she'd be the world record holder." Joyner-Kersee was already a powerhouse in the long jump and the 200-meter sprint. She was also a top scoring forward on the basketball team, so her endurance was excellent. Al Joyner taught her how to run the hurdles and to throw the javelin-a type of spear-and the shot put-a heavy palm-sized metal ball.

By 1983, Joyner-Kersee qualified for the world track and field championships in Helsinki, Finland. Her first chance to be a world champion ended in disaster, however, when she pulled a hamstring muscle and could not complete the heptathlon. Ironically, her brother Al was also present, and he too was injured. Al Joyner told Sports Illustrated that he consoled his sister by telling her, "It's just not our time yet." In 1984, both Jackie and Al Joyner qualified for the U.S. Olympic team. Having recovered from her injuries, Jackie was a favorite to win the heptathlon. Al, on the other hand, was not considered likely to win his event, the triple jump.

Confounding all predictions, Jackie won the silver medal in the heptathlon, missing the gold by only .06 seconds in her final event, the 800-meter run. Meanwhile, Al Joyner became the first American in 80 years to win the Olympic triple jump. The tears Jackie shed at the end of the day were not for her hair's-breadth loss, but rather for joy at her brother's victory. Both of them knew that Jackie would be back to compete another day.

Set Records in Long Jump and Heptathlon

The depths of Joyner-Kersee's potential began to be apparent in 1985, when she set a U.S. record with a long jump measuring 23 feet 9 inches. By then she had quit playing basketball and was devoting herself exclusively to track, under the guidance of Bob Kersee. Their relationship became romantic after years spent working together as friends, and they were married on January 11, 1986. When Al Joyner was wed to a sprinter named Florence Griffith, the stage was set for the emergence of a track and field "family" of champions: Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith Joyner. The two women were among an elite cadre of track stars coached by Bob Kersee in preparation for the 1988 Olympic Games.

In 1985, Joyner-Kersee was ranked third in the world heptathlon. She changed that ranking forever at the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow. There she set a world record in the event with 7,148 points-more than 200 points higher than her nearest competitor in history. Just three weeks later she broke her own record with a score of 7,161 points in Houston, Texas, where temperatures reached 100 degrees during competition. Her devotion to the heptathlon was recognized by numerous awards, including the 1986 Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete and the coveted Jesse Owens Award.

Joyner-Kersee's performance at the 1988 Olympics was nothing short of phenomenal. Not only did she win a gold medal in the heptathlon, she also took the gold medal in the long jump, flying 24 feet, 3.5 inches. Her heptathlon score of 7,291 points was her fourth world record, and many predicted it would probably stand for several years. Joyner-Kersee's achievement in the 1988 Olympics was particularly exciting because multi-event track competitions and the long jump had been dominated by countries of the former Soviet Bloc, where steroid use among athletes was acceptable. Joyner-Kersee became not only the first American woman to win a gold medal in the Olympic long jump, she also became the first athlete in 64 years to win a gold in both a multi-event and a single event.

Much attention has been focused over the years on the relationship between Jackie Joyner-Kersee and her coach and husband, Bob. The pair have been spotted quarreling during competition. Kersee is an exacting man who makes his demands well known. The coach told the Chicago Tribune that he and his wife try not to take their disagreements home with them at night. "We want to make it in terms of the coach-athlete relationship, and we want to stay married for the rest of our lives," he said. "So we've got rules in terms of our coach-athlete relationship and our husband-wife relationship." He added: "I'm surprised it works as well as it does, and I'm happy it does for both of us. We enjoy sports so much, and we enjoy one another so much, it would be a shame if we let track and field get in the way of our personal life, or our personal life get in the way of track and field."

Joyner-Kersee has not been able to break her 1988 Olympic heptathlon record. Since then she has re-injured her hamstring and had moments when she lacked the resolve to continue. The incessant prodding of Kersee has kept her at the top of the world standings, however. In 1992, she sought to become the fourth woman in Olympic history to win four gold medals. Her performance in the heptathlon earned her another gold, but she could only turn in a bronze medal performance in the long jump. The 30-year-old Joyner-Kersee was gracious about her defeat in the long jump, because the winner was her close friend, Heike Drechsler, of Germany. Joyner-Kersee told the Los Angeles Times that she was thrilled for her rival. "With other athletes, even though you're fierce competitors, you get a sense of them as people, whether they're nice," she said. "You still want to beat them, but when the competition is over, you realize that there's more to life than athletics."

Olympic Performance Slowed, but Career Flourished

Into the 1990s, Joyner-Kersee continued to compete in track and field, stating that she wanted to end her Olympic career on American soil. She entered the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, but was suffering from an injury to her right hamstring. She came away with another bronze in the long jump and withdrew from the heptathlon. Although she did not plan to compete in another set of Olympic games, Joyner-Kersee had no plans to abandon the sport. For some time, Joyner-Kersee had indicated that she might look to other sports besides track and field. In 1996, she signed a one-year contract with the Richmond Rage, a professional team in the newly formed American Basketball League (ABL). She did not end up spending much time on the court, though, and left in mid-season due to concerns over possible injuries.

Joyner-Kersee continued to compete in track and field events once she gave up her basketball career while also keeping busy with other projects. She functioned as a spokesperson for Nike's PLAY (Participate in the Lives of America's Youth) program, helping to raise funds for youth activity centers and providing scholarship money to youth through the Joyner-Kersee Community Foundation. She also worked with children in her hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois. After many years of trying to rebuild the crumbling Mary E. Brown Community Center, she announced in 1997 that the Joyner-Kersee Community Foundation would provide funds to build a new recreational facility on 37 acres in the center of East St. Louis. In addition to basketball courts, ball fields, and indoor and outdoor tracks, the center was to be equipped with computers, a library, and other educational resources.

Joyner-Kersee published her autobiography, A New Kind of Grace, in 1997. She registered to become an agent with the National Football League Players Association in 1998 and founded a sports management company to represent athletes in a number of sports. By the end of the year she had signed three NFL players to her list. In addition, she won the heptathlon in the Goodwill Games in July of 1998, marking the end of her illustrious career. She officially retired at age 36 on August 1, 1998, with a long jump in her hometown that was mostly ceremonial. Up until and after her final event, she remained legendary not only for her extraordinary skill, but also for her charming personality. Los Angeles Times reporter Randy Harvey wrote of Joyner-Kersee: "She is one of the warmest, most even-tempered persons in athletics. The next bad word that anyone who knows her, including her competitors, says about her will be the first."

Further Reading

Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1988.

Ebony, October 1986; April 1992; October 1992.

Interview, June 1997, p. 82.

Jet, October 7, 1996, p. 48; February 9, 1998, p. 46.

Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, August 2, 1996.

Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1988; September 29, 1988;February 17, 1990; June 22, 1992.

Parade Magazine, June 13, 1993, p. 14.

Philadelphia Daily News, August 7, 1992.

Reuters, January 8, 1997.

Sports Illustrated, April 27, 1987; September 14, 1987; October 10, 1988; August 3, 1998, p. 29.

Time, December 15, 1997, p. S16.

Washington Post, February 26, 1987; July 17, 1988; September 25, 1988.

Women's Sports and Fitness, January-February 1995, p. 21; November-December 1998, p. 42. □

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"Jackie Joyner-Kersee." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Jackie Joyner-Kersee." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (August 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404707379.html

"Jackie Joyner-Kersee." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Retrieved August 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404707379.html

Joyner-Kersee, Jackie

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

1962-

American track and field athlete

Known as the greatest multi-event track and field athlete of all time, Jackie Joyner-Kersee is the winner of three Olympic gold medals, one silver medal, and two bronze medals, more than any other woman has ever won in the history of track and field. She competed in the 1984, 1988, 1992, and 1996 Olympics and is the first American woman to win over 7,000 points in the heptathlon. She set a new world record in the heptathlon in 1986, and was the first athlete in 64 years to win gold medal in both a multi-event and a single event in track and field. She is also the first American ever to win a gold medal in the long jump.

An Impoverished Beginning

Joyner-Kersee was born Jackie Joyner in 1962, the second child of two impoverished teenage parents, Alfred and Mary Joyner. Mary was 14 when her first child was born, and 16 when Joyner-Kersee was born. Alfred Joyner worked in construction and on the railroad, and Mary Joyner worked as a nurse's aid. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, Kenny Moore wrote in Sports Illustrated, "Their house was little more than

wallpaper and sticks, with four tiny bedrooms. During the winters, when the hot-water pipes would freeze, they had to heat water for baths in kettles on the kitchen stove. Their great-grandmother lived with them until she died on the plastic-covered sofa in the living room while Jackie was at the store buying milk."

Joyner-Kersee, who had been named Jackie by a grandmother who hoped she would grow up to be as influential as then-first-lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, swore that she would make something of herself and improve her life. Mary Joyner, who knew the difficulty of life as a teenage mother, did not let Joyner-Kersee or her brother Al date until they were 18 years old. Instead, she encouraged them to become involved in other activities.

Joyner-Kersee and Al grew up in East St. Louis and became involved in sports at the Mayor Brown Community Center there. She began running track there and, when she saw the 1976 Olympics on television, was inspired to try and become an Olympian too. Al encouraged her, and became her first competitorand the first person she beat in a race.

First Pentathlon Win

When she was 14, she won the first of four consecutive national junior pentathlon championships. During those years, she also played basketball and volleyball and was listed on the honor roll for her high grades. In 1980, Joyner-Kersee accepted a scholarship to the University of California in Los Angeles, where her main sport was basketball. During her freshman year, her mother became ill with meningitis, and died. Joyner-Kersee decided to devote herself even more wholeheartedly to athletics because of her mother's desire for her to succeed. After her mother's funeral, she returned to college with a new resolve.

She soon caught the eye of track coach Bob Kersee, who convinced her that multi-event track should be her sport. He was so convinced that she had hidden talent in this event that he told the university authorities that if they did not allow her to switch from basketball to the heptathlon, he would quit his job. They agreed. Joyner-Kersee was already a good long-jumper and 200-meter runner, so she learned to run the 100-meter hurdles and the 800 meters, do the high jump, throw the javelin, and toss the shot put. These seven events are combined in the heptathlon; an athlete's performance in each event is scored, and the athlete with the highest point total for all the events is the winner. In 1982, Joyner-Kersee qualified for the world championships, but she pulled a ham-string and did not compete in the event.

Chronology

1962 Born in East St. Louis, Illinois
1974 Wins first of four consecutive national junior pentathlon championships
1980-84 Attends University of California-Los Angeles
1984 Competes in Olympic, wins silver medals
1985 Sets world record in long jump
1986 Sets two world records, receives several awards
1986 Marries Bob Kersee
1988 Wins two Olympic gold medals
1992 Wins Olympic gold medal and bronze medal
1996 Wins Olympic bronze medal
1996 Briefly plays with Richmond Rage basketball team
1996-present Works on behalf of a variety of philanthropic causes
1997 Announces creation of the Joyner-Kersee Boys and Girls Club
1998 Announces retirement from competition, but it is not official
2000 Does not qualify for U.S. Olympic team
2001 Officially retires from competition

Competes in First Olympics

In 1984, the same year she graduated from college, Joyner-Kersee's Olympic dreams came true. Not only did she compete in the Olympics, but she won a silver medal in the heptathlon. Joyner-Kersee set a world record in the long jump in 1985, with a jump of 23 feet 9 inches. In 1986 she set a new world record in the heptathlon at the Goodwill Games in Moscow, accumulating 7,148 points. Three weeks later, running on a 100-degree day in Houston, Texas, she beat her own record. For these two world records, she was awarded the 1986 Sullivan Award for Best Amateur Athlete, as well as the Jesse Owens Award. On January 11, 1986, she married Bob Kersee, changing her name from Jackie Joyner to Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Joyner-Kersee returned to the Olympics two years later to match her performance in her first Olympiad. At the 1988 Olympics, Joyner-Kersee won gold medals in the heptathlon and the long jump, setting yet another record in the heptathlon withv 7,291 points. She won the gold medal in the heptathlon again at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. She also won a bronze medal in the long jump.

Before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, some observers questioned whhaether or not Joyner-Kersee would be able to win a medal in the heptathlon. She was 34, and no athlete, male or female, had ever won a multievent at that age. According to Great Women in Sports, Joyner-Kersee told a reporter for Women's Sports + Fitness, "That's the ultimate challengeto do something nobody has been able to do. I would love that." She also said that one secret of her longevity as an athlete is that she took good care of herself, and didn't compete very often: she only did two heptathlons a year, avoiding burnout.

At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Joyner-Kersee suffered a hamstring injury and had to withdraw from the heptathlon, but took a bronze medal in the long jump. She later said that because she was battling the injury, she was as proud of the bronze medal as if it were gold. After the Olympics, Joyner-Kersee signed a one-year contract to play basketball with the Richmond Rage, but did not play much. She left in the middle of the season because of injuries.

An Athlete Committed to Helping Others

Joyner-Kersee continued to compete in track and field, but also turned her attention to other projects. She had long been known not only as a star athlete, but as a generous and gracious person who was committed to helping others. She became involved in Nike's PLAY (Participate in the Lives of American Youth) program, raising funds for youth activity centers, and founded a scholarship fund, the Joyner-Kersee Community Foundation. She worked with children in her home town, East St. Louis. Although she spent some time trying to rebuild the old Mayor Brown Community Center where she had played as a child, she announced in 1997 that the Joyner-Kersee Community Foundation would finance the construction of a new center, occupying 37 acres in downtown East St. Louis. The center would have facilities for basketball, baseball, indoor and outdoor track and field, but would also house a library, computer center, and other educational resources.

In 1998, Joyner-Kersee signed to become an agent with the National Football League Players Association, and created a sports management company to represent a variety of athletes. By the end of that year, she was representing three NFL players. In that same year, she won a gold medal in the heptathlon in the Goodwill Games. On August 1, 1998, she announced that she was retiring from competition, but she did not fill out the official forms that are required to certify such an announcement.

In 2000, Joyner-Kersee tried to qualify for the 2000 Olympic team, but did not make the cut. After this, she said that she would not compete again, even in Masters competitions for older athletes. In that same year, the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Boys and Girls Club was officially opened in East St. Louis.

Retires from Competition

On February 1, 2001, USA Track and Field announced that the paperwork regarding Joyner-Kersee's retirement was complete, and she was officially retired. In Ebony, Joyner-Kersee told a reporter that she wanted to pass on the support that people gave her when she was young. "I feel that in return I can do that for the next generation. I probably can't do much, but at least I hope I can inspire someone to take the right path and be successful."

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: c/o Jackie Joyner-Kersee Boys and Girls Club, 101 Jackie Joyner-Kersee Circle, East St. Louis, IL 62204. Fax: 618-274-1868. Phone: 618-274-5437. Online: www.jjkbgc.org.

Awards and Accomplishments

1974-78 Wins four consecutive national junior pentathlon championships
1984 Silver medal, Olympic heptathlon
1985 Sets U.S. record in long jump
1986 Sets two world records in heptathlon
1986 Sullivan Award for Best Amateur Athlete; Jesse Owens Award; Track and Field Athlete of the Year
1987 McDonald's Amateur Athlete of the Year
1988 Olympic gold medals in heptathlon and long jump
1989 Honorary doctorate, University of Missouri
1992 Olympic gold medal, heptathlon; Olympic bronze medal, long jump
1996 Olympic bronze medal, long jump
1998 Gold medal, heptathlon, Goodwill Games

Where Is She Now?

Joyner-Kersee continues to work to encourage young people to improve their lives, largely through her work with the Joyner-Kersee Boys and Girls Club. She told a reporter for PR Newswire, "I will be there as often as I can, hopefully every other day. I don't want the Center to just be my namesake, but to be a center that I am very active in. I want to be there for the kids."

SELECTED WRITINGS BY JOYNER-KERSEE:

(With Sonja Steptoe) A New Kind of Grace: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Female Athlete, Warner, 1997.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

"Jackie Joyner-Kersee," Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 19, Detroit: Gale Group, 1999.

"Jackie Joyner-Kersee," Great Women in Sports, Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996.

"Jackie Joyner-Kersee," Sports Stars, Series 1-4, Detroit: UXL, 1994-1998.

Periodicals

"Can World's Greatest Woman Athlete Cash in on Olympic Gold?" Ebony, (April, 1989): 96.

Duckett, Joy, "The Jackie Nobody Knows," Essence, (August, 1989): 62.

"For the Love of New Horizons," Interview, (June, 1997): 82.

"Formally Retired," Jet, (March 5, 2001): 50.

"Olympic Gold Medalist Joyner-Kersee Accomplishes Her Dream With Opening of Youth Center in East St. Louis," PR Newswire, (April 7, 2000): 8973.

Sketch by Kelly Winters

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Winters, Kelly. "Joyner-Kersee, Jackie." Notable Sports Figures. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Winters, Kelly. "Joyner-Kersee, Jackie." Notable Sports Figures. 2004. Retrieved August 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3407900284.html

Joyner-Kersee, Jackie

Jackie Joyner-Kersee (joi´nər-kûr´zē), 1962–, American track and field athlete, b. East St. Louis, Ill. One of the world's best all-around women athletes, she won the silver medal in the heptathlon in the 1984 Summer Olympics, won the gold medal and set the world record in the event in 1988, and captured the gold again at the 1992 games. She also won a gold medal (1988) and bronze medals (1992, 1996) in the long jump.

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"Joyner-Kersee, Jackie." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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